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Bruce Hooper’s Heart and Soul Art Exhibition success

Artist Bruce Hooper with Rev. Alex Gator in front of one of his paintings at the opening of his Heart and Soul Art Exhibition at the Southbank Institute of Technology in Brisbane. Bruce donated this painting to a youth-in-crisis charity. Image: Rhonda Hagan

by Stephen Hagan

K

ooma man Bruce Hooper realised a dream of opening his art exhibition when he stood to tell his journey in front of a captivated assembly of over 100 eager buyers, family and friends in Brisbane on Monday. “I’m a proud Kooma man and I paint the stories passed down to me by my elders,” Bruce said in his introductory remarks. “You’ll see in most of my paintings the image of my totem ... the Big Red Kangaroo. “I paint my totem that make him look sad and lonely and I paint him to make him look happy and pleased with all that’s around him. “These are my feelings and I share my journey through my totem.” Before the official proceedings got under way the gallery promoter asked photographers to refrain from taking photographs. It wasn’t clear at first what the issues were

that made the public event so private all of a sudden. But when people connected to the Gatton Correctional Centre where Bruce was released from recently it made sense not to have still cameras clicking or video recorders recording in essense very intimate recollections of wardens and former ‘brothers from the inside’ recount stories of one of the toughest, yet considerate role-model inmates. Bruce, along with the long list of speakers who spoke fondly and animately before him, shared his two decade plus long period of incarceration - which many believe was for a crime he didn’t commit - that was a “character building process of adapting and embracing challenges as they arose”. Bruce acknowledged close family and professional colleagues who helped him in his journey but reserved his highest praise to Rev Alex Gator who he said, “Never missed a Christmas or Easter service with me for the 22 years I

was inside”. The respect was mutual with Rev Gator sharing fond memories she has of Bruce as well. “Bruce was a man of few words and never missed a service I delivered in all the prisons he’d been in,” Rev Gator said. “He always sat down the back of the chapels and the high regard he was held with by other inmates ensured he wasn’t the only person listening to my sermons.” Bruce’s paintings sold very quickly on the night as attested by my brother Lawrence who identified a special painting, turned his back momentarally to phone his wife Steffanie who wasn’t at the exhibition, to turn back again only to see someone else carrying the impressive painting to the counter to buy. The success of Bruce’s first exhibition will see many more in the future where the stories of his Kooma heritage and his Big Red Kangaroo totem will be retold. Page 1


Bruce's Heart and Soul art exhibition